Former food chemist Angel-Lee Grignon, has turned her love for stylish sandals into a viable business that provides trendy and elegant footwear tailored to the requirements of the discerning customer.
Through her company, Angé Sandals, clients are able to customise particular styles with their choice of individual colour and colour combinations.
Angé Sandals, which come in a variety of colours, are easily identified by the straps made from polyester rope. There are three product lines – the Azra, Venus and the Gisele.
Ms. Grignon, in explaining the genesis of the business to JIS News, says she got into sandal making “by chance and also out of necessity”.
“It started as a personal need and it morphed into meeting the needs of potential and actual clients. As a lover of sandals, I found that I was never able to customise purchases to my liking while paying a pretty penny. If I have to pay a lot of money for footwear, I should be able to say what colours are used, at least,” she argues.
The 31-year-old entrepreneur shares that starting the business proved to be more difficult than anticipated.
Among the challenges were a lack of knowledge-sharing by experts in the field whom she consulted, limited information uncovered while doing her initial research and a seemingly endless trial and error period during the product-development process.
“That was when I took a few online courses to hone the craft and learn the ‘foot science’ behind making comfortable and supportive footwear through shoe ergonomics. I learned of local shoe and sandal-making courses after I completed the ones I had already started,” she notes.
Ms. Grignon got her first real hands-on experience when she accompanied her mother to a shoemaker after church one day.
She took advantage of the opportunity to tap into his vast knowledge gained from years of experience in the field, noting that the shoemaker readily responded to her questions.
With that encounter, coupled with the classes she took, Ms. Grignon jumped into the deep end and made the first pair of sandals under her brand in August of 2019, which was when she officially launched the business.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted businesses, particularly small operations, Ms. Grignon has seen a growth in sales.
“Since the pandemic hit, I have seen about a 25-30 per cent growth in sales, and in November I received offers to have my footwear be featured in a number of storefront spaces. There has really been blessings within the storm and I am grateful for that,” she says.
“Jamaicans are a resilient people, so I know those negatively impacted by the pandemic will come out stronger and better,” she notes.
With a little over a year as an entrepreneur, the Angé Sandals boss has participated in two major Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF) tradeshows, Christmas in July and an e-Chrismus marketplace in 2020.
Ms. Grignon, in sharing her vision for the business, says that over the next year, she is looking to expand on the company’s client base in parishes throughout Jamaica and countries within the Caribbean, where it currently serves.
“In the next five years, Angé Sandals should be supplying under brand Jamaica to countries worldwide. In the next 10 years, Angé should be on par with the popular and successful footwear brands,” she shares with JIS News.
Ms. Grignon says she also plans to host a showcase series encouraging collaborative effort and partnership among entrepreneurs in fashion and footwear.
This is in response to a call by Marketing Service Manager at the Jamaica Business Development Corporation (JBDC), Janine Taylor, for gift and craft entrepreneurs to collaborate for maximum business out-turns.
“Ms. Taylor knows what she’s talking about. I am currently exploring collaborations with other entrepreneurs in the local fashion industry to build on the brand from the marketing standpoint and also the product creation standpoint, including purchasing material,” Ms. Grignon explains.